O'Sullivan's world title dream comes up short as champion Lara's class tells in Brooklyn

Cork fighter is knocked down in the fourth round but defiantly stands tall until an eighth-round stoppage brings his WBA Middleweight challenge to an end
O'Sullivan's world title dream comes up short as champion Lara's class tells in Brooklyn

Making his connection: Champion Erislandy Lara lands a heavy punch on Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan during their bout in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Pic: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan’s world title shot crashed to earth in the eighth round on Saturday night in Brooklyn after the referee stepped in to stop a mostly one-sided contest.

Cuban Erislandy 'The American Dream' Lara retained his WBA Middleweight belt with an impressive display that had him comfortable through seven and a half rounds.

To his credit, O'Sullivan rallied after a tough opening few rounds which included a fourth round knockdown and he even managed to take the sixth in a manner that seemed to suggest his and trainer Paschal Collins’ gameplan was starting to take shape a little.

Lara always had a lethal left jab and hook in his armoury but seemed unwilling to deploy it. But just when it seemed like O'Sullivan might even have an argument to sneak the seventh round, a brutal shot from Lara right before the bell was the beginning of the end for the challenger.

The bell saved O’Sullivan but he was dazed and extra checks from the doctor in the red corner delayed the next bell and the inevitable. He also complained to his corner of a burst eardrum.

Lara, smelling blood, went after O'Sullivan in the eighth, completely reversing the pattern of each of the previous rounds. He knocked the Corkman back on his heels for the fourth or fifth time with a left jab that sent him staggering to the ropes, prompting the referee to step between the fighters as Lara bounded across to try and achieve a knockout rather than the TKO.

“He was a tough boxer,” Lara said afterwards. “I'm a smart boxer, I'm a slick boxer. I waited for him to attack and that's when I made my move. In the fourth, he was leaving himself wide open and that's when my left came in and put [him down].

“I saw at the start of the eighth that he had no more power and that's when I stepped it up with my power.” 

This was Lara’s 29th career victory while for O’Sullivan it was a fifth defeat in a fight that arrived to him barely two months ago.

Tough night at the office: Erislandy Lara lands a punch on Gary Spike O'Sullivan during their bout in Brooklyn. Pic: Amanda Westcott/Showtime
Tough night at the office: Erislandy Lara lands a punch on Gary Spike O'Sullivan during their bout in Brooklyn. Pic: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

It was a full house at the Barclays Center with the Davis-Romero main event drawing huge attention.

Lara easily won the opening round, with three or four quick combinations prising open the tight defensive stance of the challenger whose counter punches were ineffective and wayward. O'Sullivan started the second round much more positively but time and again, Lara's left hook was picking out its target and in the third round, O'Sullivan chased his opponent around the ring which only served to send him into several more combinations.

Lara seemed content to take shots and bide his time and in the fourth, that slow and patient tactic paid off when he sent O’Sullivan to the canvas. After the standing count, O'Sullivan was saved by the bell after yet another left hook hit the target.

The crouched defensive pose of Lara was difficult for O'Sullivan and the Cuban continuously bided his time before he could unleash his power punches, a left jab rattling the Corkman in the fifth, Relatively speaking, O'Sullivan enjoyed his best round of the opening half in the sixth, seemingly gaining a little bit of power and landing some shots on Lara but as if to remind everyone in attendance that he was in full control, Lara landed blows late in the round to knock O'Sullivan back on his heels a little bit.

It had been a similarly fruitful round for O'Sullivan in the seventh with Lara seemingly unwilling to exert his dominance until those fateful shots either side of the bell ended the contest.

O’Sullivan left the ring quickly and smiled gingerly as he headed back to his dressing room. The whirlwind title shot experience was a bridge too far but an achievement nonetheless.

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